By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has again vetoed a Republican-backed bill sponsored by a local lawmaker that would have required legislative approval to extend Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The veto comes as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise despite increasing vaccinations. The state reported more than 4,400 new infections, the most in a 24-hour period since December.

The measure, Senate Bill 1, was sponsored by Republican State Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township and would have ended state health department orders after 28 days unless they were lengthened by the GOP-led Legislature. Theis earlier said her bill will ensure the people have a say in the matter, stating “Unelected and unaccountable DHHS bureaucrats should not be able to issue freedom-restricting emergency orders that disrupt lives and threaten livelihoods in perpetuity.”

The Democratic governor vetoed nearly identical legislation in December. She said on Wednesday that epidemics are not limited to 28 days and that “We should not so limit our ability to respond to them.” The state’s main coronavirus order requires masks, limits capacity at restaurants and other businesses, and caps gathering sizes. Michigan has loosened restrictions but has seen a surge in cases.

On Thursday, Theis responded, saying "Gov. Whitmer’s rhetoric has once again failed to meet her reality. She maintains that her number one priority is the safety and well-being of Michiganders. But safety and well-being mean more than her narrow interpretation. Her actions, and the actions of her health department, have throughout the past year endangered the financial safety and economic well-being of the very people she claims to want to protect."

Theis added, "While the governor may have ended things with her veto, I can assure you that the people will not give up.”

With Whitmer’s veto, $347 million in federal funding for testing, contact tracing and other containment expenses is in limbo. Republican lawmakers had said the money could not be spent if she vetoed the policy bill. About $840 million in K-12 funding also is on hold because GOP legislators linked it to a bill — previously vetoed by the governor — that would have ceded the state’s authority to close schools and prohibit sports solely to local health departments.

Also Wednesday, hospitals reported large increases in virus-related hospitalizations on a percentage basis among younger age groups, which are less likely to have been vaccinated. Michigan Health & Hospital Association Chief Medical Officer Gary Roth said while vaccination rates are rising, “the war is not yet over.”

The percentage of patients under 40 has doubled in March, the group said. Overall, nearly 1,600 adults with confirmed cases were hospitalized, 41% of the peak from early December but a number that had doubled in three weeks, according to state data.

Roth urged continued vigilance wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding crowds and getting the vaccine.

About 30% of Michigan’s population ages 16 and up had gotten at least one dose as of Tuesday. A federal mass vaccination site opened Wednesday in Detroit and is expected to administer an additional 6,000 does per day for two months.

Photo - In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech, Friday, March 19, 2021 in Lansing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.